Europeanization from the periphery: the case of ‘second-class’ food in Central and Eastern Europe

Publication Title

Territory, Politics, Governance

Document Type


Department or Program


Publication Date



Central and Eastern Europe, Europeanization, food, periphery


Europeanization is often defined as the process by which European Union (EU) laws, policies and practices shape the member states. Scholars have examined the key drivers of Europeanization. In bottom-up accounts, they point to the member states themselves as important. Attention has traditionally gone to the older or more powerful member states. Yet, recent works, mostly focused on foreign policy, propose that peripheral or weaker countries may also play leading roles. This paper contributes to this perspective by examining a recent and highly publicized case around food quality standards. Starting in 2009, a group of Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs) began suspecting Western transnational corporations of exploiting a loophole in EU law to sell lower quality food in their domestic markets. The European Commission dismissed those concerns and requests for intervention. The CEECs responded by demanding more EU regulation and related enforcement measures. Their strategy was multifaceted. It involved framing the issue as a moral matter of West versus East discrimination, coordinating their actions, and leveraging the EU institutional environment. The Commission eventually acknowledged the problem, invested resources, and produced more regulation and enforcement mechanisms. The conclusion reflects on the implications for Europeanization, the periphery and power in the EU.


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